June 21, 2024
Chef Bruno and Christie Chemel close Bistronomie by Baumé on California Avenue

After running high-end and Michelin-starred restaurants in Palo Alto for 14 years, chef Bruno Chemel and wife Christie Ledesma Chemel have closed their Bistronomie by Baumé and bid “au revoir” to diners.

The news came via a posting on the restaurant website. “Merci Beaucoup! We would like to thank our customers, farmers and vendors for supporting us for the last 14 years. Au Revoir!” the Silicon Valley Business Journal first reported.

Aug. 12 was the last day of service. No mention was made of the couple’s next culinary move.

In early 2022, they closed Baumé, which had received Michelin honors for nearly a decade and reopened the California Avenue space as Bistronomie, with Chemel saying he saw “an opportunity to serve high-level meals at lower prices in a more relaxed environment.”

The emphasis remained on creative gastronomic cooking techniques using local, seasonal ingredients, but in a more affordable style — $168 for six courses, compared with previous prix fixe menus of $300 to $400.

Baumé earned a Michelin star its first year in existence, then was elevated to two stars. For the next several years, Baumé became what was believed to be the world’s only two-person staff to hold two Michelin stars.

In September 2021, the restaurant lost both stars. As with all changes in star levels, Michelin inspectors — who review anonymously — made no comment regarding Baumé’s deletion from the guide. The restaurant had pivoted to creating high-end takeout dinners during the pandemic months when indoor dining was not permitted, then resumed serving its multi-course tasting menus indoors to a very small number of diners.

Chemel quickly issued a tart response to Michelin: “The erratic, corporate focus and fixations of the Guide have been a distraction for years, creating no value for restaurateurs or diners,” he said in a statement. “I finally feel free to enjoy cooking just for the happiness of my guests. Instead of following the status quo, I can follow my own vision and listen to the customer’s feedback, not the Michelin guidelines.”

His inaugural Bistronomie by Baumé menu was a “modern French” sustainable pescatarian prix fixe one, with six courses for $168. By comparison, a previous pescatarian menu had been priced at $298 and other prix fixe meals at $398.

Chemel, who was born an hour’s drive from the Michelin headquarters in France, graduated from culinary school in Moulins and the Lenotre Pastry Academy in Paris. He worked at numerous Michelin-starred restaurants in that country before coming to the United States. In the Bay Area, he opened La Suite in San Francisco and earned a Michelin star at Chez TJ in Mountain View.

In December 2009, he parted ways with the Chez TJ owner, George Aviet, over a star. Aviet had wanted to return Chez TJ to the two-star status it had enjoyed under chef Christopher Kostow.

Chemel left and opened his molecular gastronomy restaurant in 2010, naming the restaurant after 18th-century French chemist Antoine Baumé. Since then, Chez TJ has retained a single Michelin star under a succession of chefs.